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State: Oil counties tops in North Dakota wages

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm •  Published: July 9, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Well-paying jobs in western North Dakota's oil-producing counties helped propel the state's average annual pay by 4 percent last year to almost $48,000, state data show, though the state still hovers slightly below the national average.

"We're seeing a nice uptick and we're closing the gap," said Michael Ziesch, a research analyst for Job Service North Dakota.

The state's average annual pay increased from $45,909 in 2012 to $47,779. The national average in 2013 was $49,316 but increased only 1.1 percent from the prior year, data show.

North Dakota's average annual wage has jumped a whopping 44 percent since 2007, when the oil boom began in earnest. The national average wage in 2007 was $44,038 compared with $33,086 for North Dakota workers.

Western North Dakota counties that produced oil last year held nine of the top 10 spots in average annual wages, Job Service figures show. They are: Williams, Slope, McKenzie, Dunn, Mountrail, Stark, Mercer, Burke and Divide counties.

Coal-rich Oliver County ranked fifth in wages. McLean County, also an oil producer, was No. 11. The 11 counties were the only ones of the state's 53 that topped the statewide wage average, data show.

Oil-rich Williams County ranked first for the second consecutive year with an average annual salary of $78,390 — more than triple the county's average wage a decade ago.

Before the oil boom, counties with lignite mining or power plants had the distinction of paying workers the best. But workers in the oil and natural gas industry earned an average salary of $111,451 last year, Job Service data show, while mining jobs paid an average $80,174. Jobs that supported the mining industry, such as those at power plants, paid an average wage of $98,609 last year, data show.

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